Illegal mining: We need to reinforce fight

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman
Birim River

News that the Bunso Water Treatment Plant in the Eastern Region has been shut down as a result of the over-pollution of the Birim River from galamsey activities in the community is very bad not only for the people in the area but the nation at large.

It is sad to note that this is the second time the plant has been shut down this year as a result of the high pollution and turbidity of the river which has made treatment very expensive and, therefore, beyond treatment.

It should now be clear to all that there is a section of people in society who do not care a hoot about the adverse effects of their activities on us all, no matter how suicidal they will be, either now or in the future, as far as their selfish desires are concerned.

Every sincere Ghanaian attests to the devastating effects of illegal mining popularly called galamsey, but the practice has gone unchecked over the years, or the few times that there have been initiatives to deal with it, the action has not been sustained. It was this that emboldened those engaged in the act to mine unabated, rendering most of our farmlands devastated.

A very serious aspect of illegal mining is the uncontrolled use of chemicals such as cyanide and mercury that get washed into the soil and water bodies. When mercury-contaminated materials are dumped directly into the water body such as a river, they are carried downstream and dispersed over a very wide area into the sediments at the bottom of our waters. Aquatic animals absorb the chemicals and their consumption by humans can pose a great health risk to people living downstream of those mining areas.

Again, Mercury vapour dispersed in the air also settles onto the ground and contaminates soils up to two kilometres away. Perhaps the most dangerous effect yet is the vapour that travels long distances and comes down with rain. Which means that those who use rain water, the soil that the rains fall on, fruits, leaves and vegetables, other food items, and even people who are drenched in rain, are under serious health threats from rainwater.

At a point in time, our western neighbour Cote d’Ivoire had occasion to complain about the unbridled illegal mining that had rendered some of their waters dangerous to consume. It is in the face of all these that the war against illegal mining was welcomed by many.

But the Daily Graphic is saddened that with all the efforts that have been put in and especially the President being on record as saying he would put his presidency on the line to fight the canker, we have come to the point where a whole water treatment plant has to shut down.

We are alarmed at the shutdown because with all the resources, both human and material, that have been pumped into the campaign, we should not have been here.
We urge the government not to be discouraged and Operation Vanguard not to rest on its laurels but go all out to put a stop to this menace. People who will be caught in the act should be handled with the strongest iron hands possible.

Perhaps it is time the initiative is reviewed, but we are concerned that the media have expressed concern recently of  their non-involvement in the road map to the lifting of the ban on small-scale mining and we hope this will be corrected in due course.

We surely cannot retreat in the fight against illegal mining; we need to sustain and defeat it once and for all.